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A tale of two Pockets: 5v step-up regulator install by linklooklisten (Matt G) Dustin Hamilton - June 21 2019, 0 Comments

Matt G, better known as linklooklisten, is a modder based in New York City, New York and a prolific poster on Instagram and Twitter. We became aware of him via his Instagram feed by not only the designs and photography, but also the helpfulness of helping people learning and do things is a 'breath of fresh air' as it were. He's keenly interested in helping build up this hobby.

He decided to take our recent post about adding a 5v step-up regulator to the Game Boy Pocket when backlit and kindly made a pictorial guide out of it and a video to showcase the different.

Simply enough, thank you Matt!

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Game Boy Pocket v5 step-up voltage regulator - linklooklisten - Hand Held Legend

Ever since I received this Extreme Green Gameboy Pocket in the mail back in December of 2016, I wanted it to be more…extreme… more… green. And what better way to do that than by adding a green backlight to it. I had already modded a bunch of original Gameboy systems at this point and became  familiar with AGS-101 screen mods for GBAs. This Extreme Green Pocket would be my first pocket to modify. I installed the backlight, slept that night, and installed the bivert module the next day using the V2 bivert which meant I had to run wires from the front of the motherboard to the speaker area where the bivert rested as well as a resistor to the backlight. It wasn’t easy since it was my first go at this, but I prevailed.

Now in 2019, much has changed in terms of boards and backlights. Biverts have shrunk, and resistors are built in to backlight ribbons. Since the times have changed, I figured to at least swap the older bivert for the new one and also add a 5v step-up regulator so that my first modded pocket can have a better 5v source to keep the backlight nice and bright. I’ve yet to install a V3 backlight because the V2 with a resistor gets the same results. Many flash carts like the El Cheapo and Everdrive can also cause the Pockets backlit screen to flicker when a rom is being written to it’s memory, contrast may be adjusted to undesired levels automatically or the screen could turn blank entirely. Installing the Pololu 5v Step-Up module fixes these issues as well.

Let’s begin!

What’s required:

  • Y1 and Phillips screwdriver
  • Soldering iron and supplies (a thin tip on the soldering iron is recommended)
  • Wire
  • A Pololu U1V10F5 (this is the 5v regulator, very small which is perfect for a Pocket)
  • Patience and time (don’t rush!)
  • Quick tip: always solder ground (GND) lines first!

First, open up the system. (I installed the drop-in bivert chip a few weeks ago.)

Game Boy Pocket v5 step-up voltage regulator - linklooklisten - Hand Held Legend

Focus on the lower right area on the board. We’re going to prep the 2 solder joints labeled 3 and 1. If you follow this to the front of the board, 3 connects to GND and 1 to VCC on the pockets DC regulator. Add some solder to both of these. I chose this spot instead of the speaker because the Pololu U1V10F5 is so small, it fits in this area with zero interference to wires, capacitors or the shell when attempting to close. Personally, I prefer to see little to no wires. Clean builds look better than spaghetti, but to each their own! If you dig wires, put more in there!

Game Boy Pocket v5 step-up voltage regulator - linklooklisten - Hand Held Legend

Next, prep the Pololu 5v regulator with some solder too.

Before: Game Boy Pocket v5 step-up voltage regulator - linklooklisten - Hand Held Legend - Pololu  After: Game Boy Pocket v5 step-up voltage regulator - linklooklisten - Hand Held Legend - Pololu

Next, I measured how short of a wire I’d need to cut to make VIN on this little board reach #1(VCC) on the back of the system board (VCC on the regulator), I did the same for GND on both the small 5v board to #3 (GND on the system regulator),

Connect GND on the 5v board to #3/GND on the system, then VIN on the small 5v board to #1/VCC on the system. Always solder ground first!

We’re good with this small board for now. Let’s shift gears to the backlight. Since this system was already modded, I had to remove the 2 wires on the backlight ribbon. I measured how long the new wires would need to be in order to reach GND and VOUT on the Pololu 5v board. Again, this is my preference. If you do not want exact measurements, cut longer wires. After measuring, I connected a blue wire to the - solder pad, and a red wire to the previously removed resistor, and connected the resistor to the + solder pad, with both wires facing to the left.

Game Boy Pocket v5 step-up voltage regulator - linklooklisten - Hand Held Legend

Slide the backlight back in to the display and carefully wrap the wires around to the front of the system board. Solder the other end of the blue wire to GND on the Pololu board and make sure the wire currently in GND stays in there.Then solder the red wire to VOUT. In the end, we have 2 really short wires connecting the Pololu 5v board to the Pocket system board, and the 2 backlight wires going to the Pololu board. I snuck in a piece of Kapton tape under the Pololu board as a safety precaution.

Game Boy Pocket v5 step-up voltage regulator - linklooklisten - Hand Held Legend - Pololu

The red and blue backlight wires should fit perfectly between the system board and shell. This is another reason why I prefer wires at the exact length. If they were any longer, they would have to get tucked in a bit further and be visible from the front of the system. I guess this is more of a non-issue if you have a solid colored Pocket, but I’ve found myself still cutting wires to their exact length even on non-transparent systems for practice. I want them to look good inside of the system whether you can see it or not.

Game Boy Pocket v5 step-up voltage regulator - linklooklisten - Hand Held Legend - Pololu

Upon closing the system, you’ll notice the back of the shell closes with no problems. Nothing gets stuck or is too snug. In this particular build, you can see the Pololu step-up board. If you want to, you can tape down the step-up board using a piece of double-sided tape, but the 2 wires being so short also means the board isn’t moving anywhere.

Game Boy Pocket v5 step-up voltage regulator - linklooklisten - Hand Held Legend - Pololu

Put in 2 AAA batteries to test it all out. The result should be a brightly lit screen.

Game Boy Pocket v5 step-up voltage regulator - linklooklisten - Hand Held Legend

I keep trying to perfect this particular Gameboy Pocket, which is why it’s been a work in progress over the past few years. I cannot stress this next part enough: the drop-in bivert option is totally worth it and makes a massive difference in the quality. The contrast pops and overall image quality looks much cleaner.

Game Boy Pocket v5 step-up voltage regulator - linklooklisten - Hand Held Legend

As an alternative, the Pololu board could be installed on the back of the speaker, just trace the wire length along the bottom of the system board. That should keep things looking clean as well. Also, using a V3 backlight means no need for a resistor.

As I mentioned earlier,the 5v step-up module fixes flash cart loading issues. This video shows what it's like trying to load an Everdrive on a modded Pocket both with and without the Pololu 5v board installed.

 

 

About linklooklisten

Matt G (linklooklisten) is a regularly shared modder on our social pages (Facebook, Instagram) and we're glad to have him join us in sharing some articles with you about modding. He has always loved portable gaming and got his first limited edition gold colored Game Boy Pocket as a child and started collecting Game Boy games. He began modding Playstation Portables (PSPs) back in 2005, later installing different colored shells, custom firmware, creating what was known as Pandora batteries and making recovery memory sticks for friends and forum goers. Fast forward to 2016 when he would backlight his first DMG Game Boy and the rest is history.

Profile: linklooklisten


Game Boy Pocket backlighting and 5v step-up regulators Dustin Hamilton - June 13 2019, 0 Comments

We want to address something that’s coming up frequently in the modding community… that the first impression of backlighting a Game Boy Pocket is disappointing. We get it. It doesn’t have to be, though, as the primary issue is brightness of the backlight - or sometimes the system simply behaving oddly or failing to stay powered-up.

Here’s the good news: this is an easily resolved problem… it may seem intimidating at first, but the solution is a 5v step-up (aka ‘boost’) voltage regulator. I’m going to cover not only the solution, but we’ll dive a bit into what’s happening and why the backlight is dim (or the system failing to work at all).

 

What’s going on here?

Simply enough the Pocket is awesome in that it’s very small, light, and is even powered by just 2 AAA batteries… and at the same time the issue is that, electrically speaking, it runs on very thin margins. Simply enough the main DC-DC convertor in the Pocket was designed to handle the system itself and using standard cartridges... there isn't enough margin for things like a hungry backlight and/or flash cartridge. While 2 AAA batteries add up to ~3.0v (alkaline), keep in mind that the system itself is using the bulk of that the batteries don't spend much time at the full 3.0v, either. The backlight is dim due to not getting sufficient voltage. Sometimes even, as mentioned, the system will behave oddly, visual anomalies, or even fail to stay powered-up at all… that depends on a number of factors, which I’ll skip for now to get at the solution.

 

Ok, so now what?

What’s needed is to boost the voltage supplied to the backlight, which is aptly named since the common name for the part is a 5v ‘boost’ [voltage] regulator… more formally known as a 5v step-up [voltage] regulator. These are rather small  PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards) but very important in function.

A 5v step-up regulator (I’ll call it a ‘boost’ going forward) does exactly what it says it does in that it takes voltage as low as 0.5v (per spec of our suggested boost) and ‘steps it up’ to a smooth and continuous 5v. The board I mention here is the Pololu U1V10F5 and measures only 0.35” wide x 0.45” tall (8.9mm x 11.5mm).

 

You can purchase the Polou U1V10F5 on their site currently for $4.49 USD (for 1) plus shipping: https://www.pololu.com/product/2115. You’ll need one to do this mod. Mind you this isn’t the only boost that will work, I simply find it to be the smallest and easiest to tuck away in consoles.

 

Installation

What’s we’re going to do is get the boost installed in a way that uses essentially straight battery power so that it does two things:

  1. Won’t strain the stock DC-DC regulator, which at 23 years old is likely showing its age.
  2. Providing the backlight its needed steady 5v power supply.

 

Required

  • Soldering iron and supplies
  • Multimeter
  • Wire (30 gauge suggested)
  • Game Boy Pocket prepped for backlighting
  • Backlight
  • Resistor (if the backlight doesn’t have one built-in) It's very important to ensure you have the right resistor for the color of backlight you're installing!

 

Installation (presumes console open, etc)

Note: We’ll be placing the boost on the back of the speaker, so be sure to give yourself enough wire to do that.

  1. Start by soldering VCC from the Pocket’s regulator (middle-left solder point) to VIN on the boost.
  2. Solder GND from the Pocket’s regulator (lower-left solder point) to GND on the boost.
  3. Game Boy Pocket 5v DC-DC regulator 
  4. Check for continuity, while the console is off - you want to ensure you have a good connection between VCC and VIN, and between GND and GND. You do not want continuity between VCC and GND… if your meter gives a positive continuity indication (usually a beep/tone), then you’ve got a solder bridge and need to correct that before proceeding.
  5. Power on the console, and use your multimeter to measure the output of the boost between GND and VOUT, looking for a steady 5v (I usually see ~5.15v). If that looks solid and steady, power down the console lets move on.
  6. If your backlight does not have a built-in resistor, you’ll need the correct resistor for your color of backlight - check with the vendor if you're unsure. Solder the backlight POS (+, red) wire to VOUT on the boost… wire-in the resistor if needed. Note: Our Hand Held Legend V3 backlights have the resistor built-in; no external resistor is needed.
  7. Solder the GND (-, black) wire from the backlight to GND on the boost… you might have to re-solder this to ensure that both GND from the Pocket and GND from the backlight are soldered to this same GND point on the boost.
  8. Check for continuity again - you want continuity between POS (+, red) on the backlight and VOUT on the boost. You’ll also want continuity between GND (-, black) on the backlight and GND on the boost. Be sure to test for continuity between GND and VOUT - if you get a positive indication, you’ll need to correct that (usually a solder bridge) before proceeding.
  9. Power on the console - the backlight will power-on at this point and be at it’s full brightness, with the console doing it’s normal power-on procedure.

You’re all set regarding the backlight… now where to put this stuff? As mentioned briefly ahead of the wiring instructions, we’re going to place the boost on the back of the speaker - there’s a bit of room there, and the step-up is small, so it works out well. If you’ve placed your bivert module there, you can pick up our Pocket Bivert (link below) or relocate the bivert or the 5v step-up to another location in the Pocket (something not covered here, for brevity and focus).

Game Boy Pocket - Speaker back

 

Suggested: Recap

Especially if your console had difficulty staying powered-up or had other odd behavior when you first had the backlight installed, and to ensure top performance, you’ll want to replace the capacitors in your pocket… there are only four of them, so it’s an easy procedure. We don’t carry capacitor kits at this time, so head to Console5 (link below) for one from them at $1.29 USD at the time of this writing. It’s also an easy process - and we’ll get into detail in a later article.

 

Ok…

Close up the console, now that we’ve tested everything and ensure it’s working, and you’re good-to-go!

Thank you once again, and keep those questions coming! We promise to do what we can to answer the most common questions to the best we’re able.

 

Product mentions

 

References and suggested viewing

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